After a hotly-contested Western Conference Finals between L.A. and Denver last season, and now back-to-back preseason games in Southern California just four days before the regular season opener for LA, the opposing squads were enjoying each other about as much as the Yankees and Red Sox on Friday evening.
In fact, trash talking and light shoving took up more time in the second quarter than actual basketball, beginning with an extended delay as Lamar Odom took exception to a Chris Andersen elbow (plus a little Kenyon Martin on the side). After respective assistant coaches had cleared players off the floor, play resumed for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before separate flagrant fouls were called on Denver’s Joey Graham and L.A.’s Shannon Brown. Furthermore, there were six technical fouls called in the game, three for each team.
Some basketball was played, however. L.A.’s starters, which in this case included D.J. Mbenga and Odom in place of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (sitting with minor injuries), played well out of the gates to build a 25-19 lead, but Denver promptly went on a 16-0 run and held on to build a 57-49 lead at the half against the Laker bench.
Joining Bynum and Gasol on the pine in the second half (and second quarter) were Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers were more interested in simply getting through the preseason than pushing for a victory.
Yet the half had to be played, and L.A.’s reserves ended up spotting Denver’s subs a 62-56 edge before the final whistle (finally) blew.
Mbenga scored 14 points in three quarters on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, while Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar combined for 29 points and six assists. It was Vujacic’s 18 that led all Lakers, while Adam Morrison (11) and Luke Walton (10) were also in double figures. The Lakers had all kinds of trouble with rookie point guard Ty Lawson, who was terrific in scoring 29 points with five assists to lead Denver.
After the game, Phil Jackson said that it was likely L.A. would get Bynum back for the season opener, though Gasol was less of a sure thing as he continues to strengthen a strained hamstring.
Only one number tonight:
4 Days until Ring Night.